Pets ‘may reduce childhood allergies and obesity’
Early exposure to pets could make children less prone to allergies and obesity, scientists have said as a new study revealed babies from families with pets have higher levels of two important microbes.
A team from the University of Alberta tested faecal samples from infants, finding exposure to pets during pregnancy or the first three months after birth increases the abundance of two bacteria - Ruminococcus and Oscillospira - that are linked with reduced childhood allergies and obesity, respectively.
Commenting on the latest findings, which are published in Microbiome, lead researcher Anita Kozyrskyj said: “The abundance of these two bacteria were increased twofold when there was a pet in the house”.
Researchers also found that the immunity-boosting exchange occurred even in three scenarios known for reducing immunity - C-section, antibiotics during birth and lack of breast feeding.
Furthermore, their research suggests the presence of pets in the house lowered the risk of vaginal GBS (group B strep), which causes pneumonia in newborns, being transmitted during birth.
The work builds on two decades of research showing children who grow up with dogs have lower rates of asthma. The theory is that early exposure to dirt and bacteria, for example in a dog’s fur or on paws, can build early immunity.
Kozyrskyj said it is too early to say how the latest findings will lead, but it is “not that far-fetched” that a supplement of these microbiomes could be created.